By Dan Lavie
December 31, 2019
As Gulf state prepares to host largest sporting event, senior official says: "We do not mix sport and politics, but we would hope that Palestinians are able to make it too."
Israelis will be able to enter Qatar as normal tourists in two years to attend the world's biggest sporting event, despite the Jewish state not having official diplomatic ties with the Gulf country, a senior Qatari official indicated on Tuesday.
Speaking with ESPN, the head of the Qatari committee organizing the 2022 FIFA World Cup Hassan al-Thawadi, said his country will serve as host for all nationalities during the monthlong event. "Everyone is welcome. We do not mix sport and politics, but we would hope that Palestinians are able to make it too," he said Tuesday.
Over the past several years Gulf states have allowed Israelis to use their airports for layovers and even granted visas for Israeli delegation members for various international conventions or sporting events, but if Israelis are allowed to enter Qatar at will, this will be unprecedented.
The FIFA Ethics Code prohibits host countries from discriminating fans based on their nationality during official sporting events.
The Israel advocacy group StandWithUs has repeatedly called on the international soccer governing body to ensure Israelis would be allowed to visit Qatar during the tournament in 2022.
The organization welcomed the apparent decision to let Israelis enter freely.
"[StandWithUs] cautiously welcomes comments by Hassan al-Thawadi," the NGO said. "StandWithUs has repeatedly called upon FIFA, the international football/soccer association, to ensure that the Qatari government will issue entry visas to Israeli fans wishing to attend the FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar in 2022. To date, Israel is not included in Qatar’s online list of nearly 250 nationalities and territories eligible for an entry visa."
The organization reiterated its call to make an official announcement on the matter.
"FIFA’s Code of Ethics unambiguously forbid the banning of people based on their country of origin. Article 22 proscribes "offend[ing] the dignity or integrity of a country, private person or group of people through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions on account of race, skin color, ethnicity, nationality, social origin, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason," it said. "We call upon FIFA to uphold their Code of Ethics, which is premised on protecting international football from 'illegal, immoral or unethical' practices. If Qatar is allowed to ban fans on the basis of national origin, this would be a clear violation of FIFA’s guidelines," said Roz Rothstein CEO and Co-Founder of StandWithUs.